Though many have tried, it’s arguable that no developer other than FromSoftware has been able to create a Soulslike game that manages to feel as engaging and enjoyable as Dark Souls, the franchise that kicked the genre off. Several titles have come close, though, and Mortal Shell — a new Soulslike ARPG from small developer Cold Symmetry — comes the closest. And while Mortal Shell does miss the mark in a couple of ways, it’s nonetheless incredibly impressive what Cold Symmetry was able to achieve here.
Dark Souls, but with body takeovers
Bottom line: While it’s not perfect, Mortal Shell is nevertheless an impressive snack-sized Soulslike that’s fun, polished, and unique, providing an experience that Souls fans will love.
- Excellent combat system
- Shell mechanic is awesome
- Strong polish and presentation
- Interesting lore to unravel
- Level design could be better
- More weapons would have been nice
- Music is bland
What you’ll love about Mortal Shell
Out of everything within Mortal Shell’s 12-16 hour adventure, the game’s combat system was, by far, my favorite thing about it. As is expected from a Soulslike, light and heavy attacks, stamina management, dodging, and parrying all have an essential place in your moveset. However, what sets Mortal Shell apart is its replacement for shields: Hardening, a cooldown-based mechanic that allows you to turn into stone whenever you want (including while you’re attacking) and take one hit without taking damage while also staggering whatever hit you. Since Hardening doesn’t require committing to an animation but can only block one strike, it uniquely encourages aggressive play in a way that no Soulslike before it has. Pair that with Mortal Shell’s “Resolve” meter that builds when you attack and can be used to either perform devastating special attacks or deliver a health-regenerating riposte post-parry, and you’ve got an offense-focused gameplay loop that’s as addicting as it is clever.
Mortal Shell allows for mid-playthrough playstyle swapping, which is rarely the case in Soulslikes.
Something else that stands out in Mortal Shell is its “shells,” or bodies that can be taken over by the player. There are four, and each comes with a different amount of health, stamina, and maximum Resolve. They can be found in the world, and each shell comes with its own skills that can be unlocked with earned resources. For example, Harros the Vassal is a jack of all trades with average stats and Hardening skills, while Eredrim the Venerable is a tanky knight with high health, low stamina, and damage skills. You can switch between these shells at any time, too, offering the player a ton of freedom in terms of mid-playthrough choice.
What you’ll love less about Mortal Shell
Source: Windows Central
The small weapon variety in Mortal Shell is disappointing.
Additionally, I was disappointed by the fact that there were only four weapons. While each of them are distinct from one another, I would have liked to see more options. Part of what makes Dark Souls fun is that players have an arsenal of different weapons at their disposal, and while I didn’t expect Mortal Shell to have dozens, having eight or ten instead of just four would give players a reason to keep playing and experiment more.
Lastly, Mortal Shell’s music — mainly consisting of boss themes — is really, really lacking. Overall, the score is very forgettable and bland, which is a shame considering a huge part of what makes Soulslike boss battles feel epic is their top-notch soundtracks. There are a few decent ambient tracks in the game, but by and large, I was really disappointed.
Should you buy Mortal Shell?
Source: Cold Symmetry
If you’re a fan of Dark Souls and games like it, I highly recommend giving Mortal Shell a shot. It’s a small, yet creative take on the genre, and I can’t wait to see what Cold Symmetry does next.
Mortal Shell is available for $30 on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC through the Epic Games Store. If you do decide to pick the game up, make sure to refer to our beginner’s guide for some starting tips.
Welcome to Fallgrim
Dark Souls, but with body takeovers
While it’s not perfect, Mortal Shell is nevertheless an impressive snack-sized Soulslike that’s fun, polished, and unique, providing an experience that Souls fans will love.
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